On April 13, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott provided an update on the Ontario government’s ongoing efforts to supply health care workers and first responders with essential medical equipment. Premier Ford and Minister Elliott were joined by Minister of Finance Rod Phillips.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford, Minister Elliott and Minister Phillips took questions about ongoing measures being taken by the government to slow the spread of COVID-19, timelines for lifting economic restrictions, the province’s testing strategy, and protecting residents and workers in long-term care.
Yesterday afternoon, the Ontario government also announced that the province is developing a new health data platform that will allow researchers to better support health system planning and responsiveness.
Update on Medical Equipment and Supplies
This afternoon, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott provided an update on the Ontario government’s ongoing efforts to obtain and supply critical medical equipment for patients, frontline health care workers and first responders.
Over the last five days, more than 13 million surgical and procedural masks, 200,000 N95 respirator masks, and 38 ventilators have been delivered to Ontario’s pandemic stockpile warehouses.
Ontario is providing same-day delivery of critical supplies to hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes, and other facilities to support essential workers and ensure that supplies are expedited to those most in need.
Premier Ford also thanked Alberta Premier Jason Kenney for committing to send critical medical supplies and equipment to Ontario, including 250,000 N95 masks, 2.5 million surgical masks, 15 million surgical gloves, 87,000 safety goggles, and 50 ventilators.
COVID-19 Response in Ontario and Economic Outlook
Following this afternoon’s update, Premier Ford confirmed that the House would be sitting tomorrow for an expedited session in order to extend the provincial state of emergency by 28 days. The legislation being considered tomorrow will also include measures on municipal housing, child care and education.
Premier Ford and Minister Phillips were also asked about timelines to begin the economic recovery process and lift some of the restrictions currently placed on Ontarians. Premier Ford cautioned Ontarians that the reason Ontario seems to be making progress in terms of flattening the curve is because the province and its population are taking the recommendations of medical professionals seriously. The province is working to produce updated modelling which will be used to determine timelines for lifting restrictions. Until there are clear signals from the modelling that the curve of COVID-19 is descending and the government is advised that it is safe to do so by medical professionals, Premier Ford said the province is not ready to begin lifting restrictions.
Adding to the comments made by Premier Ford, Minister Phillips confirmed that the Ontario Jobs and Economic Recovery Committee announced last week is considering timelines for the lifting of restrictions. When it is safe to begin reopening the economy, this will be done cautiously and measures such as staggering recovery in certain sectors and/or areas of the province will be considered. The Committee will also consult industries and communities for suggestions and feedback.
Ontario’s COVID-19 Testing Strategy
In response to questions about Ontario’s testing strategy for COVID-19, Premier Ford indicated that in conversations over the weekend, Ontario Health CEO Matthew Anderson assured him that all workers and residents in long-term care (LTC) would be tested proactively, although this is not required by Ontario’s new testing guidelines.
Regarding Ontario’s testing capacity, Premier Ford confirmed that the province is on track to process 8,000 tests per day by April 15th.
Protecting Residents and Workers in Long-Term Care
In response to questions about the continued emergence of COVID-19 cases in LTC facilities, Minister Elliott admitted that some LTC providers who work in multiple settings may have inadvertently infected residents. Minister Elliott added that while Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, has strongly recommended LTC providers to only work in one facility, the economic circumstances of some LTC providers may force them to work at multiple homes.
Premier Ford was asked about the British Columbia government’s decision to legislate that LTC providers only work in one facility to avoid spreading COVID-19 among the LTC sector. While Premier Ford admitted that passing such a law in Ontario may create staffing gaps in some facilities, he expressed concern over LTC providers working in multiple facilities and said he would rely on officials to come up with a recommendation.
Development of Health Data Platform
Yesterday afternoon, the Ontario government also announced that the province is developing a new health data platform in consultation with the Ontario Privacy Commissioner. The platform, called the Pandemic Threat Response (PANTHR), will hold secure health data that will allow researchers to better support health system planning and responsiveness, including the immediate need to analyze the COVID-19 outbreak.
The information gathered in PANTHR will break down barriers and allow researchers to help with the following:
- Increasing detection of COVID-19;
- Discovering risk factors for vulnerable populations;
- Predicting when and where outbreaks may happen;
- Evaluating how preventative and treatment measures are working; and,
- Identifying where to allocate equipment and other resources.